Fans in SoCal were hoping for Urban Meyer. Instead, Clay Helton is back in the saddle to lead the Trojans in 2020. Will USC return to prominence, or will a roster stockpiled with gifted athletes continue to underachieve?
This is one of the many questions you must ask yourself before committing to any Pac-12 football predictions. Another query worth deliberating is how the Ducks are going to perform now that Justin Herbert has moved on to the NFL.
Utah needs to retool on defense, while both Washington and Washington State lost their quarterbacks and head coaches.
Between all of the departing players and coaches in this conference, it’s safe to say that making a Pac-12 pick at this stage of the game is a bit of a crapshoot. But it won’t stop me from trying.
Pac-12 Winner – Odds for 2020
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Talk about a college football conference that’s bunched up at the top. After perusing through various Pac-12 football predictions posts, I have seen all sorts of chatter that’s going to rile up different fan bases.
For example, I’ve seen Oregon listed as a runaway champion in one spot, while the Ducks are projected to finish fourth in another.
Herm Edwards and Sun Devils are a Pac-12 sleeper that’s receiving mixed reviews, but one thing remains constant. Almost all of the notable touts agree with the leading college football sportsbooks online when it comes to the Pac-12 football odds.
There are four teams that have separated themselves from the rest of the pack.
2019 Record: 12-2 (Won the Rose Bowl)
Best Player: Penei Sewell, OT
We’re going to find out how much the loss of Justin Herbert affects this team early on in one of the biggest college football games in 2020. Oregon hosts Ohio State at Autzen Stadium on September 12th in a game where the Ducks will be home underdogs for the first time in as long as I can remember.
On top of losing Herbert, four of five starters on the offensive line are being replaced. Thankfully, the lone returner is Penei Sewell, a guy in the conversation to be the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Under the guidance of Mario Cristobal, this offense will find plenty of ways to score points.
In terms of the defense, Oregon landed the top two-ranked inside linebackers in the 2020 recruiting class, including Penei’s younger brother, Noah. Last year’s top prospect, Kayvon Thibodeaux, is in line for a monster season, and the secondary is loaded with speedy playmakers.
All in all, Oregon should be every bit as good as they were in 2019. That spells trouble for the rest of the Pac-12.
2019 Record: 8-5 (Lost the Holiday Bowl)
Best Player: Kedon Slovis, QB
Anything short of a Pac-12 title in 2020, and it’s going to be considered a disappointing year for the Trojans. New AD Mike Bohn opted to stick with Helton as opposed to hiring a high-profile name, so don’t expect the boosters to remain patient. It’s time to put up or shut up in La La Land.
Waving goodbye to Michael Pittman Jr. would normally sting, but welcoming Gary Bryant into a receiving corps that already includes a bevy of studs is going to make life much easier on Kedon Slovis. Speaking of Slovis, the rising sophomore is worth a serious look for anyone betting on who wins the 2020 Heisman Trophy.
What hurts Southern Cal in their quest for greatness is the fact that their 2020 recruiting class suffered from the uncertainty surrounding the head coaching position. The end result (according to rivals.com) was attracting the 64th-best recruiting class in the country.
Slovis and Helton better have a few tricks up their sleeve, because that makes it awfully difficult to contend with a program like Oregon.
2019 Record: 11-3 (Lost the Alamo Bowl)
Best Player: Devin Lloyd, LB
Losing their final two games wasn’t exactly how Utah wanted to head into the offseason. However, Kyle Whittingham has bigger problems than that. The Utes have to replace QB Tyler Huntley, RB Zack Moss, and six defensive players who were drafted into the NFL.
To put that number into perspective, Alabama had five defenders selected in the 2020 draft. Clemson had four.
The starting quarterback job is down to Cameron Rising (Texas transfer) and Jake Bentley (South Carolina transfer), and Whittingham would be wise to settle the score sooner rather than later. The Utes kick off the year against BYU in the Holy War game and must get off to a quick start.
What could help Utah hang around the top of the Pac-12 standings is the break they catch with their 2020 schedule. Aside from not having to face Oregon, the Utes get USC and Washington at Rice-Eccles Stadium. When it’s all said and done, don’t be surprised if we see another double-digit victory season in Salt Lake City.
2019 Record: 8-5 (Won the Las Vegas Bowl)
Best Player: Elijah Molden, CB
The end of the Chris Petersen era signals the beginning of Jimmy Lake’s chapter as the Huskies’ head coach. The former DC at UDub will have his hands full navigating what appears to be an arduous schedule on paper.
Before Halloween even arrives, Washington will face Michigan and Utah State, as well as Oregon and Utah on the road. Including their October 31st date at Cal, seeing the Huskies struggle to find their footing is a reasonable expectation.
As far as how this impacts betting on Washington or my Pac-12 football predictions, I see some solid value in attacking the Huskies’ win total. Set at 8.5 regular-season games at BetOnline, laying -110 that Lake loses at least four games in his inaugural season in the north part of Seattle might just be a slam dunk.
Besides the daunting tests I alluded to above, trips to USC and Washington State loom in the distance.
Who Will Win the Pac-12 in 2020?
I’m going with Oregon in my Pac-12 football prediction, but look out for USC giving them a run for their money. Utah may need a year to rebuild and replenish the defensive side of the ball, and Washington just has too much stacked against them (new coach, new QB, tough schedule).
You can take a stab on ASU or Cal, but it may not amount to much when the season is over.
On the flip side, investing in the Ducks winning the Pac-12 at +250 is a college football bet I suggest you jump on now. This generous price tag may not last forever.
As a former Division I collegiate golfer, Michael Wynn loves writing about golf. He's also an expert in most of America's most popular sports, writing extensively for GamblingSites.com on football, basketball, and baseball.
Michael's a Las Vegas native and has been with the company since 2017.